Perth Glory have one hand on the A-League Premiership after torching Melbourne Victory to win their top-of-the-table clash 2-1 at AAMI Park.
Neil Kilkenny and Diego Castro struck second-half goals on Sunday to swell their lead to seven points on top of the ladder. Kosta Barbarouses' late effort made no difference to the outcome and, with nine matches to play, Perth are within sight of their first piece of A-League silverware.
Showing Tony Popovic's side to be worthy title aspirants, for the second time this season, they travelled to the home of the champions and departed as winners.
"Everyone has their views on what this game meant," Popovic said. "For us, it was just another challenge, another important match that we could still show our consistency, show our quality and show that we don't have fear. "If you analyse the whole game, of course we deserved the three points."
After their last-gasp 3-2 win in October, it took a little longer for both sides to hit top gear on Sunday. Victory and the Glory came into the match as the league's top scorers -- but without their best strikers -- and both laboured to halftime without clear-cut chances.
Victory were missing Swedish international Ola Toivonen and kept Keisuke Honda and Georg Niedermeier on the bench as they recovered from injuries. The Glory's Andy Keogh was also on the bench, but for tactical reasons as Popovic opted for a top two of Joel Chianese and Chris Ikonomidis.
While they didn't have their stars, Victory were organised and determined, keeping the Glory at bay. Perth's breakthrough came from an unlikely source: midfielder Kilkenny. The 33-year-old had the smarts to flick a ball towards Corey Brown's outstretched hand in the box for a penalty.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat took umbridge at the decision after the match. "That decision helped them ... Corey's only a metre away and I've watched the replay - Corey hasn't moved his hand," he said. "That gave them a little bit of momentum and it was a goal that could have been avoided."
Kilkenny stepped up to take the spot kick successfully despite Lawrence Thomas getting a hand to his effort. Victory coach Kevin Muscat threw on Honda and Niedermeier as he looked for a kickstart, and Terry Antonis almost delivered it with an effort that flew just wide.
Instead, Glory creator-in-chief Castro turned in Ikonomidis' centre with a flying kung-fu effort that Popovic celebrated with a thumbs up.
Some consolation for Victory arrived on 78 minutes when Leigh Broxham played in Barbarouses to score -- the first time Perth's defence had been breached in five matches.
After Keogh missed a gilt-edged chance to put the result beyond doubt, Honda blazed over in the 95th minute. Amid the time-wasting antics of Liam Reddy, Perth held on, looking set to march on to the Premiers Plate.